Filed under: gigs, music | Tags: chuck ragan, crazy arm, frank turner, roundhouse
A long time since the gig this one so it’ll be nice and brief but with a few more pics than normal!
It was yet another Frank gig for me but one of the biggest, with only the Shepherd’s Bush show coming near it for crowd size. The Roundhouse was a place I’d never visited before so was excited to finally see the place and it was a weird one as it’s quite a large venue but doesn’t seem overly spacious for the amount of people it can hold (and it definitely felt like that later on).
The whole night was one I’d been looking forward to though with both support bands being artists I’d really like which is a normal ocurrence with Frank’s shows and one reason why I never tire of going to see him.
The openers on the night were fellow Xtra Mile artists Crazy Arm whose album I had been listening to a lot prior to the show (and one which had definitely made my top 10 albums of 2009 had I bought it in time). The Plymouth foursome are one of my favourite British punk rock bands of the moment who also have a bit of a folk influence which makes for a great sound. On the night they didn’t disappoint with renditions of my favourite tracks on the album ‘Still To Keep’ and ‘Blind Summit’ sounding great.
Other album tracks also worked really well and live the vocals and guitar riffs from lead man darren Johns came across strongly. The only disappointment was that they ended on the track ‘International Front’ which is possibly my least favourite off the album but that’s not something I would hold against them.
After that came the somewhat legendary Chuck Ragan and his entourage of musicians. I had only recently got into Chuck’s solo stuff but pretty much fell in love with it straight away with his distinct, punky voice overlying the superb folky guitars. Live, his voice was even more amazing and I did wonder at times whether he’d need a microphone as his voice filled the venue so well. His setlist was a nice mix of material off his two albums with my favourite songs ‘The Boat’ and ‘For Broken Ears’ sounding as good as I could have hoped for live.
The former of these two tracks (I think) saw Frank join him on stage to sing alongside him and this seemed to perk the crowd up a bit who were seemingly rather indifferent to his set. Other band members on stage also helped make it a cracking set with some beautiful female backing vocals and some energetic fiddle playing by the rather distinct figure of Jon Gaunt. These guys came together really well and made the whole set one I really enjoyed with Chuck having the ability to go from big, almost rock songs like ‘The Boat’ to slow ballads like ‘Geraldine’ so easily. A great choice of artist to go alongside Frank.
And with that, it was onto Frank Turner himself (well, and the band too). By now, the venue had completely filled out and was starting to get a bit cosy to say the least. However, with this increase in crowd size comes the increase in muppets in the crowd, as I wrote previously in the SBE show. And as always, I seemed to be stood next to the biggest idiots so spent the 20 minutes before Frank started stood by a group of 5 or 6 guys who just insisted on trying to shove their way through the crowd the whole time.
When Frank did take to the stage though, the entire crowd went mental and this madness continued through the first three tracks of ‘Photosynthesis’, ‘Try This At Home’ and ‘Once We Were Anarchists’, the latter being a track I don’t think I’d ever heard live. ‘Richard Divine’ gave the crowd a chance to catch their breath long enough to be able to scream the lyrics back at Frank and was another track that I’d not seen live before.
The one thing that made this show so different to previous ones I’d seen was that this was the first that felt like a ‘rock show’. Having seen Frank play shows where he just turns up and plays songs on his own with someone elses guitar, to see him onstage with such an impressive lightshow going on at the same time, it was difficult to imagine it was the same guy. The spectacle of ‘Long Live The Queen’ with the drummer, Nigel, being projected as a giant silhouette onto a screen behind the rest of the band is one such effect that sticks in my mind.
The rest of the set was a great mix of new and old material and a few tracks I’d not heard in a while. Particular highlights were ‘Dan’s Song’, with the actual Dan joining Frank on stage for the harmonica solo, the solo version of Jet Lag (the first time I’ve heard it in full as the only other time Frank played it, he forgot the words) and an old tune in ‘Back In The Day’.
The main set itself finished strongly with ‘Prufrock’ and ‘Reasons Not To Be An Idiot’. As always, it was straight onto an encore which saw all the other artists from the night come back on stage to perform ‘Revival Song’; a tune penned by Chuck Ragan during the Revival Tour that he and Frank had undertaken together in the States. The rest of the encore then consisted of ‘St Christopher’s Coming Home’, a standard part of the setlist at big shows, and then finished with his biggest hit in ‘The Road’.
However, the London crowd were then treated to a second encore with a shirtless Frank coming back on stage by himself to perform ‘The Ballad Of Me And My Friends’ which, unsurprisingly, went down extremely well with the boisterous crowd.
Altogether, it was definitely one of his best shows I’ve seen. I’m not sure whether it bettered the SBE gig but does it really matter? As mentioned previously, it was most impressive by being one of his most ‘complete’ shows with the lighting adding another dimension to his live acts. It’s just a shame that the bigger crowd is bringing out the bigger idiots but this is a small price to pay to see one of my favourite acts push forward with his much deserved success.
Chuck Ragan – For Broken Ears (live)
Frank Turner – Jet Lag (live)
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